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MANCHESTER United have been accused by fans of bribery by using the lure of Champions League final tickets to boost executive ticket sales at Old Trafford.

The Reds offered executive members a guaranteed ticket for the May 27 Rome showpiece with Barcelona - blackmarket tickets now top £1,000 - if they renewed their home games membership for next season.

With around 8,000 executive members at United, who pay an average of £3,500 per season, ordinary fans had feared that up to half of the club's 19,000 allocation could have been snapped up by the `prawn sandwich brigade'.

But the club has said that the offer, which expired on Sunday, resulted in only around 500 renewals.

One angry supporter, season ticket holder Dave Ali, attacked United's use of the incentive, which they sent out to all executive members via email.

He claims the scheme was unfair on loyal fans, could have led to more tickets flooding the black market, and could even lead to fans buying up tickets being refused access to the match, which is on May 27.

"It's bribery and aimed at people who can afford to pay a lot of pennies," said Ali, from Castlefield.

"Most executives are corporate, which is all about tax relief for companies to generate business."

But United have hit back, a spokesman saying: "In reality the email has only made a difference of less than two and a half per cent of the allocation to the sale, from the way we allocated tickets for the final in Moscow last year."


The club has been experiencing problems in selling hospitality this season - so much so that there are still offers available for Saturday's home clash with Arsenal, when United could conceivably wrap up their third straight Premier League title.

And with the recession biting, United fear that situation could worsen next season.

Fans had also been concerned that people who had not been to a United match before could have picked up a final ticket simply by stumping up to become an executive member, but the club says the offer was for renewals only, and not available to new executive members.

But the decision has also brought condemnation from the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, a spokesman saying: "It's disheartening that ordinary supporters who have followed the club home and away, including into Europe, won't get tickets because some tickets are being used as bait for people to renew their executive memberships."

But United said: "Priority will be given to season ticket holders who have applied for all the European away games. People who apply and fit the criteria will either get a ticket or be put into a ballot to get one."

The club refused to divulge details of how many tickets are being handed out to their own staff - believed to be about 500 - and to sponsors like Budweiser and Nike, saying: "We provide our staff with tickets, as we have done for 50 years. Companies which sponsor us will get an allocation, to which they are contractually entitled."

Ali, who is a member of the club's loyalty pot, aimed at channelling tickets for big games to those who attend, or at least apply for, every United game home and away, said: "What annoys me so much is that United are just not transparent - if they told the fans what they were up to, they wouldn't have all this animosity.

"You used to buy a season ticket because it guaranteed you a ticket home and away. I am a loyalty pot member but still don't get tickets."
Source: Manchester Evening News
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